Monday, 18 December 2006

Yobbofication is a safe bet and pity is cheap

... or: Filet Mignon and a Professorship for Everybody!

The following is SO typically German in its megalomania, whining self-pity, misdirected empathy and general lack of common sense:

We have an underclass! *WHINE*

YES! WE Germans have an underclass! *WHIMPER*

And that when everybody, but certainly we, thought we were perfect! *SOB*

Neue Unterschicht ein "gesellschaftlicher Skandal"

In Deutschland ist eine neue gesellschaftliche Unterschicht entstanden, der acht Prozent der Bevölkerung angehören. Die SPD-Spitze sieht diese Entwicklung als "gesellschaftlichen Skandal".

Hamburg - Dies berichtet die "Bild am Sonntag" unter Berufung auf eine repräsentative Studie von TNS Infratest im Auftrag der SPD-nahen Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. Zur neuen Unterschicht zählen … 20 Prozent der Ost- und vier Prozent der Westdeutschen. Viele dieser Menschen empfänden ihr Leben als "gesellschaftlichen Abstieg"; ihr Bildungsgrad sei überwiegend einfach, berufliche Mobilität und Aufstiegswillen seien nur gering ausgeprägt.
… die SPD-Spitze [bewertet] die Ergebnisse der Studie als "handfesten gesellschaftlichen Skandal". Sie sollen jetzt in die Debatte um das neue Grundsatzprogramm der Partei einfließen. Parteichef Kurt Beck wolle einen "Bildungsaufbruch" organisieren, um den Kindern der Unterschicht den Aufstieg zu ermöglichen. Beitragsfreie Kindergärten und der Ausbau von Ganztagsschulen seien Teil der Pläne. (tso/AFP)

New Underclass a "societal scandal"

German has bred a new underclass to which 8% of the population belong. The SPD (Socialdemocratic Party) leadership sees such a development as a "societal scandal".

Hamburg - "Bild am Sonntag" reported with reference to a representative survey of TNS Infratest commissioned by the SPD-associated foundation Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung. The new underclass includes … 20 percent of East- and four percent of West Germans. Many of those people believe their life to be a "social decline"; their education is only basic, vocational mobility and the desire for social advancement are rather underdeveloped.
…the SPD (Socialdemocratic Party) leadership [considers] the results of the survey an "undeniable societal scandal". They are supposed now to influence the party's new fundamental policy statement. Chairman Kurt Beck wants to organise "educational new horizons" to open the doors to social advancement to the children of the underclass. Free kindergardens and more full-time schools are part of the plans. (tso/AFP)
To reduce the findings of the survey (as mentioned in the above article) to their core: there are a certain percentage of people with substandard education, lacking in vocational (or any) mobility and the will to get on in life who are -– who would have thought so! –- not doing well.

That this is the model definition of underclass mentality, almost comical in its stereotype, doesn't seem to be of any interest to anybody and the fact that that flotsam of society reaches only a remarkably low and celebration-worthy volume of 4 percent is a "societal scandal" because we think that we deserve to be a nation of millionaires and Nobel Laureates. (We will come to the significantly higher figures in the former GDR later.)

What brain disease is it that makes people unable to understand that those people are not miserable because of their circumstances, but that their circumstances are suboptimal because they are miserable. A textbook case of confusing cause and effect. The only thing that is "new" about it is that the state is finally running out of money to sponsor that sort of ineffectivity.

Isn't that precious? When will people learn that not everybody is equally talented, motivated, intelligent, assertive and endowed with the same sort of elbows and that it is not the state's business to level all of nature's inequalities? That moronic bit of journalism sounds as if Germany was still a feudal community where privileges are granted by birth and not a welfare state whith a society that is dominated by upstarts from the lower middle and working classes who have gotten where they are because they were hardworking, intelligent and tough enough to get on in life and who are taxed witless now to keep all the damnés de la terre with a hardly basic education and lacking desire for social advancement safely in fags, the latest state-of-the-art mobile phones, designer-basecaps, booze and junkfood.

I wonder whether all those who are distributing other people's money so liberally ever gave a thought why the underclass described above is so significantly more widespread in East Germany than in the West. It is precisely because they have been robbed by more than four decades of Socialist "welfare" of the basic human wish to get on in life and all the phoney do-gooders can't wait to introduce that in the West as well. And instead of investing in an already rotten educational system that let Germany drop down to the level of some third-world countries to finally sponsor those who are bright and advancement-orientated, it's free kindergardens and more full-time schools for the flotsam of society so that the mothers can sleep all through the morning and then stuff their faces with crisps while watching telly and boozing. After all, the little 'uns will at least be able to fill in their dole-money application forms themselves when they are grown up.

But it doesn't end here. I wish it would, but no such luck!

While in any sane country the above politicians would be laughed out of the door, here, they get flak from a certain branch of academia because it's all still not bad enough:
Armutsforscher fordert mehr Druck auf Reiche
In der Debatte über eine soziale Spaltung der Gesellschaft werden Forderungen nach mehr Druck auf Besserverdienende laut. Wer Armut mit Erfolg bekämpfen wolle, müsse auch die Reichen in die Pflicht nehmen.

Experten haben angesichts der Unterschichten-Debatte wirkungsvollere Maßnahmen gegen die wachsende Kluft zwischen Arm und Reich angemahnt. So plädierte der Armutsforscher Christoph Butterwegge dafür, Reiche sollten mehr Verantwortung übernehmen und von ihrem Vermögen mehr abgeben. «Man müsste dafür sorgen, dass der Reichtum nicht weiter von unten nach oben verteilt wird.
Butterwegge zeigte sich verwundert über die Aussagen des SPD- Vorsitzenden Kurt Beck zu einem wachsenden «Unterschichten-Problem» in Deutschland. Wenn die Politik nun die zunehmende Passivität sozial schwacher Menschen beklage, seien dies «Krokodilstränen». Denn die Politik habe die «objektiven Bedingungen» dafür geschaffen. Vor allem die Arbeitsmarktreform Hartz IV habe dafür gesorgt, dass die Kluft zwischen Arm und Reich immer größer werde und die Armut sich bis in die Mitte der Gesellschaft hin ausbreite.

Poverty Researcher Calls to Increase Pressure on the Rich
Following the underclass-debate, experts have called for more effective measures against the growing gap between poor and rich. The poverty researcher Christoph Butterwegge therfore asked for the rich to take over more responsibility and to give away more from their wealth. "There ought to be measures to prevent that richness is not distributed further from the bottom to the top."
Butterwegge showed amazement regarding the statements of SPD-chairman Kurt Beck regarding the growing "underclass problem". If the politicians are complaining now about the growing passivity of socially disadvantaged people, they are shedding "crocodile's tears", because the politicians created the "objective conditions" for that. Above everything else, the job market reform Hartz IV has to answer for the growing gap between rich and poor and that poverty has already reached the middle ranks of society.
Whatever a poverty researcher does, he doesn't do it for tips. Buttertwegge, who earns as a C4- (full) university professor's salary between 4,000.00 and more than 6,000.00 Euro per month, perks not included, who is subject to life tenure and a hefty pension, is known to have coined the priceless quote: 'Poverty in such a rich country like Germany is even more humiliating.'

That's right. Let's make the rest poor as well!

As Butterwegge is roughly my own age and as I seemed to vaguely remember his silly name, I searched for his bio and lo and behold, he used to be one of those "STAMOKAP" Socialists within the Socialdemocratic Party, influenced by the Stalinist DKP (German Communist Party), who sought to "conquer state power" and thus "overcome the structures of capitalism" in the Seventies. Back then, they were threatened with discharge from the SPD, although I doubt that many were actually kicked out, if any.

Butterwegge is living proof for the fact that he and his ilk long since managed to perform the "march through the institutions" to the top as opinion leaders and opinion makers and what seemed to be fairly outrageous back then has become the accepted mainstream since -- and we all didn't even notice it.

When even shrewd analysts of the economic situation like the journalist Gabor Steingart,of Spiegel fame, is starting to tout the 'underclass' cause, something stinks seriously.
What is citizenship worth if people are denied the opportunity to participate in the working world? What use are civil liberties if the right to an independent lifestyle is no longer among them? Would it be acceptable if the rights set down in the constitution were only applicable to the educated classes?
Cynically put, maybe it would be a step in the right direction. Everybody who goes through life with open eyes in Germany can't help seeing countless things that don't go together with the "poverty" whine.

Fact is, basic foodstuff is cheap and of good quality here. (You don't believe me? That's fine! I wouldn't have believed it either before I went to work in the UK and tried to make ends meet there.) With basic foodstuff I mean bread, flour, margarine (even butter if not needed in huge quantities), eggs (if you don't insist on the politically correct "free range" variety), cheeses (if you are not into goat's cheese and other French stuff), sausage (again if you are not into hand-sliced, air-dried Italian salami), canned vegetables and fresh vegetables and fruit in season. There are enough opportunities to get the latter even free, but picking apples would interfere with idling away time with the camera mobile phone bought on the never-never. The price of meat and fish are dependent on season and local circumstances, but by no means prohibitively expensive if one isn't going for filet mignon.

But then, what does it help that flour, vegetables, oil/margarine/shortening and meat are cheap. One would have to shift one's lazy ass away from the telly and the beer crate to process it into something useful and edible and the mere sound of the word "useful" is anathema among the new damnés de la terre.

NOT cheap is the processed and semi-processed junk with which les forçats de la faim are slowly poisoning themselves and their children, like fried onions in a glass jar, fried bacon in plastic containers, fried meatloafs ready to eat together with mustard and ketchup so that the busy housewife doesn't even need bothering to put mustard and ketchup on the table, ready-made dough for pizzas (not to speak of ready-made pizzas). Hell, there are even ready filled sandwiches because mothers today are obviously too lazy to make sandwiches for their children to take to school. I tried them, they taste like sawdust filled with sawdust and they are, of course, ridiculously expensive.

Some months ago I was listening to the wireless, as usual in the car. The programme was about poverty in Germany. The definition I remember best was the mother who had to *gasp* save to buy her son a ticket for an "Abenteuerschwimmbad" a sort of wet amusement park and then couldn't go with him *sob* because there wasn't enough money for a second ticket.

Yes, those urinals for the lower classes ARE prohibitively expensive, but what about a nice walk through the woods? But then, watching kingfishers or the red deer rut is boring – and so boringly free! (And yes, where I used to live until recently for two unforgettable years, one of the most underclass-infested regions in Germany, one could reach places like that within 20 minutes by car and even by public transport within less than an hour, so don't give me any bull about the hardship of urban living.)

So that's those who never advanced. A different aspect of the "underclass" discussion are those who advanced and fell.

The famously liberal weekly DIE ZEIT tells the sad, sad story of a once well-to-do couple, architects both, who lost their jobs and their entire assets through bad luck, economic circumstances and bad business decisions. (And WOW! DO I can relate to that!) However, I do not share the view that they are "underclass". Yes, they have a huge money problem. But they are educated, they are "well spoken", books are part of their life, they know how to use them and how to help their child to get on in school (which is, if I may remind you, free in Germany) and only a perverted society totally void of any standards save the monthly income will grade those people as "underclass".

I do not share, either, the view that society is in any way responsible to make good for people's bad luck and lack in business acumen.

The same article mentions a village school with 245 students, two or three of which in each class go without breakfast. I remain adamant that NO child in Germany needs to go to school hungry and without "school sandwich". (Let me remind you that schools in Germany are of the half-day sort and that usually no school lunch is provided.) If you have a look at the prices of the most popular and ubiquitous food discounter ALDI, you will see what I mean. You'll find bread (Brot) under Backwaren (=baked goods). Most other stuff is self explaining.

The interesting part of it is that those families, unable to provide their children with food, are described as "fugitives from the city" because housing is cheaper in the country. So if housing is cheap (and paid for by the state anyway if the family is recieving social security funds), for what on earth do they spend their money if they'll have to send their children to school without "school sandwich"?

Is it really enough to write something -- ANYTHING -- in one of the most lauded papers nationwide as long as it's compliant with the current mainstream extracerebral discharge?

The same article informs us that those parents can't afford 2.60 Euro for their children's swimming lessons. That is sad. What is even more sad is the fact that they obviously can't be bothered to teach their children swimming themselves. There are countless big, small and tiny lakes or quarry ponds in Germany free for all, clean and pleasant, no problem to reach for those in the country anyway and within cycling distance from the big cities as well (or close to a public transport station). No Maldives, not even Mallorca needed. Just some good will and self-reliance, but that exactly is the missing ingredient. It has obviously run out of fashion to do something more proactive than collecting subsidy from "Father State" and exchange it for booze, fags and junk food.

What I found specifically enlightening (we're still at the same article, mind you!) was this little gem:
Psychologen und Ökonomen haben im Rahmen der Glücksforschung herausgefunden, dass es dem Menschen relativ egal ist, ob er 800, 900 oder 1.000 Euro in der Tasche hat. Entscheidend ist das Gefühl, dass es aufwärts geht und dass die Nachbarn, die Freunde, die früheren Kollegen nicht enteilen. Deshalb hat sich ein Arbeitnehmerhaushalt in den Sechzigern ziemlich wohlhabend gefühlt, während sich ein Sozialhilfeempfänger heute ziemlich arm vorkommt.

Psychologists and economists found during their happiness research [I kid you not!] that a person doesn't mind much whether he has 800, 900 or 1,000 Euro in his pocket. The crucial point is to have the feelings that things are basically progressing and that neighbours, friends and former colleagues won't be lost. Therefore, a jobholder's household in the Sixties had the subjective feeling of being well off, whereas a recipient of social security funds considers himself rather poor.
Well, even that "there, there, I can relate to that" journalism can't at last get totally round the truth. We don't have a poverty problem, we have an attitude problem.

What we are experiencing is not a pauperisation, but a fast progressing yobbofication of the German population. The first is a matter of means, the second is a matter of minds. Where have the nice, sound, respectable shops with good quality stuff gone? One can still get high-end stuff in the big cities (I guess), but those upper middle-range shops, be it for clothes, household goods or whatever, are gone. Vanished from the face of the earth. Our inner towns and cities are now crammed with those unspeakable "Everything-for-1-Euro" shops (where, of course, NOT everything is for 1 Euro) that are not offered because people need them, but because they were bought for next-to-nothing somewhere Far East and can be sold now for a whopping profit to the undiscerning. Not to speak of the clothes shops, where young girls can buy cheap stuff that makes them look like sluts – correction: CHEAP sluts – to match their earringed boyfriends and which will fall off anyway after the first attempt at washing it, so they'll buy more. The problem, again, is not lack of money, but lack of discernment.

How did we get where we are? As I said before, this is a society made by upstarts from the lower middle and working classes. My maternal grandparents may save as an example. They came after WWI from West Prussia to the industrial area along the river Ruhr to find a life better than that of a farm worker, which didn't mean just poor, but living within a society that was still into the remnants of the rigid feudal system of the Germany east of the river Elbe. They arrived piss poor in a freight train, travelling with their meagre belongings. By the early Thirties, (my grandfather was holding a good job in the steel works) they had built a nice house and had acquired a modicum of "good taste". Books had always been part of family life. In other words, they had arrived safely at the middle class side of society. And all that without free kindergardens, full-time schools and dole money.

Of course, they didn't think that fashionable and throwaway sluttyness in appearance or instant gratification in lifestyle had any particular merit. My mother tells me that they never bought anything cheap or shoddy, be it clothes, household goods or the modest ornaments they had. In fact, my handsome, stately grandfather in his Sunday clothes got, to his intense embarrassment, often an appreciative "nod of same classness" from men who wouldn't have noticed him in the workplace. The fact that he had a scar similar to a student's duelling scar from an accident in the steel works added to that impression. When, during WWII, material was rationed, my grandmother didn't go out anymore and gave her clothes coupons away to keep her pretty daughters well dressed. Of course, she had always been there for the family and didn't see any need to go out to work for either "self-fulfilment", her wardrobe or the annual family stint of beach-front binge-drinking at Mallorca's Ballermann, the legendary hang-out for the holidaying German underclasses.

Not that this is anything special. Countless people of my generation can report a similar family history and, at the end of the day, such families became the backbone of todays prosperity – or what is left of it. Will their spirit persevere? Not very likely. It rather looks as if they are succumbing, if not to the allure of welfare, but to the creeping intellectual depravation as demonstated by the success of TV-shows like "Big Brother".

Of course there IS a lack of opportunities and perspectives, but it doesn't help to deny the crucial point, namely the fact that our system of social security is adverse to any self-reliance, self-protection and fighting spirit and only cements the sad status quo. It shouldn't left unmentioned, either, that the many crippling tax- and other regulations, stifle in the bud any self-initiative of those who haven't yet resigned. There is method behind this madness, however. Solving societal problems by handing out welfare checks and thus buying a travesty of social peace has worked so far. This latter-day selling of indulgences isn't even, mind you, done to satisfy a warped ideal of justice, but solely for the protection of the sinecures of the new ruling classes, think: poverty researcher (not subject to call) with social worker wife (not subject to call) or liberal fishwrap Schmock with wife keeping her chair warm at the local employment agency (not subject to call).

A large yobbofied underclass doesn't give them any headaches, it secures their lifelihood, and pity is cheap.